Just The Point: Please keep your cat indoors

Molly spends every hour of the day studying the habits of her humans, when she’s not recharging her batteries. Courtesy photo

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By Richard Kleeberg Special to the Express It is time for all of us to keep our cats indoors.   I can already hear the cries of protest! “Cats don’t want to be indoors! Cats need to roam and exercise. Cats can’t be happy indoors. Cats will not stay indoors.” Well, none of that is really true. Over the years, we’ve had six indoor-only cats, and all flourished, being warm in the winter, dry during rainstorms, and pampered as they reclined on sofas and beds. They got plenty of exercise, and didn’t show any desire to roam! And only one ever tried to go outside — but even when he did occasionally dart out the back door, he rarely traveled more than 15 feet. Keeping cats indoors is strongly recommended by the SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) for numerous reasons. It’s estimated that outdoor cats kill about 2.4 billion birds annually in the USA. Outdoor cats are three to four times more likely than dogs to carry rabies. Outdoor cats spread parasites and infectious microbes directly to humans, including roundworms, hookworms, giardia and toxoplasmosis. Outdoor cats also create a smelly mess in many neighbors’ yards, where they deposit their feces. And finally, far too many outdoor cats are killed by cars. If you leave your cat outdoors, you really don’t have a pet. Indoor cats become true pets. They spend far more time with you. They follow you around. They often sleep near you. They love to sit on your lap. Many will greet you at the door when you get home. Basically, what happens is that most indoor cats begin to act much more like dogs! And indoor cats live much longer! Numerous studies show that indoor-only cats survive nearly twice as long, get far fewer diseases, don’t get killed by cars and trucks, and never, ever use your neighbors flower beds as a toilet!  Our indoor-only cat, Molly, a black cat with white feet, sleeps on my lap when I am reading, and sits on my arm when I am working at my computer. She spends hours every day in the kitchen, on top of her 30-inch mini-tower, observing whatever we are doing, staring down the dog, or curling up into a ball for long naps. Ten years ago, we had a gray and white tabby, Maximus. Whenever I would call his name, he would come to me immediately, even if he had to go up or down the stairs to find me! And one wonderful cat we had years ago, a long-haired orange male, Falstaff, loved to sit in our living room on stacks of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. He adored my wife, and followed her around the house! If you still think keeping cats indoors sounds strange, remember, the way we care for dogs has changed dramatically.  Back in the 1960s, every family on my street had a dog, and every one of those dogs roamed and wandered freely from yard to yard, and street to street. Dogs were never required to stay on their owners’ property, and never were put on a leash!  Dogs pooped in whatever yard they chose, and dogs were often killed by cars. (I lost two dogs to cars when I was a kid.) But gradually, during the 80s and 90s, those dog-care customs slowly changed, and people began to keep their dogs at home, and leashed when away from home. Today, nobody thinks it’s silly to keep dogs from roaming from street to street. Nobody thinks it is unfair to keep their dog on their own property. And nobody complains about their dogs living longer, healthier lives. If your cat has been outdoors for years, it may well be difficult to get it to transition to being indoors-only. It might take months. Or it might never work. But if you have a kitten or young cat, it is simple to do. It will take some time before a majority of people agree that cats belong indoors. But I predict that over the next 10 to 15 years, it will happen. It is time to keep our feline friends indoors!

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